(Photo: Alli Cline/WCSN)
Arizona State swimmer Marlies Ross is at the pinnacle of her swimming career. She gives ASU a versatile set of skills that helps an ASU team that lacks depth. However, she made a large sacrifice to swim for the Sun Devils. Most college athletes have to move several states to compete for their school. Ross moved continents from Pretoria, South Africa.
“It was really hard for me and my family at first when I decided I was going to take that leap of faith and come to America,” Ross said.
The inevitable culture shock gave Ross a lot to adjust to. The little things like differences in serving sizes of food to longer practices in the pool affected her initial mentality. However, that soon subsided as she experienced new aspects of her life that she found enjoyable.
“It’s the first time that I’m actually in a team environment where it’s not the individual swimming, it’s the team swimming,” Ross said. “It’s what the team can do together not an individual, which is something different from what I’m used to, and I love it.
Once she settled in, it was a very short matter of time before her coaches saw the potential within Ross as a new member of the swim team.
“There’s an edge factor to her about just wanting to race, having fun, and wanting to work hard,” Assistant Coach Dan Kesler said.
This edge first came as a result of not only Ross’ internal drive as an athlete, but also the continuous support from her family that remains in South Africa.
“They’re always up to date with what’s going on,”Ross said. “They’re super supportive, and I can always call them or face-time them. They’re always keeping me motivated.”
Nonetheless, her ability to perform at a high level soon became more defined as Ross found a new mine of determination.
“When you’re down by five points and you’re the person swimming the 400 IM as the last event and they’re all counting on you to make it a really good race,” Ross said. “Having that support with you when you turn and see everyone yelling for you. That just gives me motivation.”
This is often a situation Ross encounters, even as a newer member of this team. She plays a key role as a reliable swimmer who is capable of competing in any event.
“She’s so versatile and so good that she’s really a plug swimmer,” Kesler said. “We can just really plug her in at different places.”
Her times dictate her versatility. At her last meet, Ross’ 200-yard IM time improved to a 1:59.14 from the 2:04.74 she swam two weeks prior. Additionally, she followed suit with the 200-yard breaststroke by tapering her previous time of 2:18.82 to a 2:15.07 at the same meet.
“You have to be understanding that she’s holding herself to a higher standard than you as a coach will have to hold her at. That’s her personality- wanting to be the best,” Kesler said.
Being the best is something she envisions being one day. She has large aspirations to swim at the world’s greatest event – The Olympics.
“I want to be there,” Ross said. “I want to be top eight in the world.”
What Ross accomplishes in the next four years will be determined only by the goals and limitations she sets for herself.
“I truly believe that it’s up to her,” Kesler said. “She’s got the talent, she’s got the desire, she’s got the coaching, she’s got the facilities, we’ve got the resources. So, really, how good does she want to be.” Kesler said.
In the meantime, Ross will continue to be the multi-faceted asset she has been to the team.
“I can be a leader to someone, but that person might be a leader to someone else. So, I feel like it’s a group effort. I wouldn’t want to be singled out as a leader- I would want to lead with my swimmers,”Ross said.
If there are any questions, the reporter can be contacted through Twitter @paige_burnell, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org